On Monday, December 12, the Suffolk County Legislature once again voted to fund the continued use of the pesticide methoprene by the Department of Public Works, Vector Control Unit, to control mosquito populations.
Methoprene, an insect growth regulator that is used in larvicide applications, is a known toxin to fish and shellfish. Impassioned arguments have been made to ban or limit its use in the county by the environmental community over the years and have, sadly, fallen on deaf ears. Perhaps a different argument is needed.
Prior to becoming the Peconic Baykeeper in May 2016, I served as a pesticide control specialist for the State Department of Environmental Conservation for sixplus years, regulating the very Vector Control activity described above through permitting and site inspections of both ground and aerial sprays, along with writing violations when they occurred. I can state that Suffolk County Vector Control always treated me with respect during these interactions, and made their very best effort to comply with all environmental regulations.
Vector Control’s position is that methoprene, which has been severely restricted in Connecticut and Rhode Island due mainly to lobster toxicity concerns, should continue to be used to mitigate human health concerns and the nuisance mosquitoes pose. They argue that scientific literature does not exist that directly correlates methoprene’s use to lobster or other shellfish die-offs. Furthermore, they state that much of the public thinks mosquito spraying is an important part of disease and nuisance control, and requests its continuation.
Suffolk County has spent decades, and millions of dollars, on mosquito control, with little demonstrable success. Coupled with previously poor decisions to disrupt marshland with mosquito ditches and bulkheads, we have created the very stagnant water conditions that lead to larger mosquito populations. Coupled with spraying, which also indiscriminately kills mosquito larvae predators, our Vector Control policies themselves have led to dying marshes unable to control mosquito populations naturally.
In the absence of complete scientific knowledge, we should not participate in activities that may cause harm. We know our marshes are in danger, and under a broad assault from development, wastewater pollution, stormwater runoff and other pollutions. We know methoprene is toxic to marsh inhabitants that prey on mosquitoes. We know decades of spraying have done little, if anything to control our mosquito problems. How about we try and let nature work?
Recently, SCVC has made great strides in marsh remediation as part of a holistic approach. Give Vector Control the tools to solve the root of the mosquito problem, unhealthy wetlands, rather than continue to spend on the ineffective Band-Aid of spraying toxics.